A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Strategies for Re-Opening Smart in the (Post) COVID World

You have been watching the news, waiting, or in some cases desperately waiting for the government to “re-open the economy.”  There are steps you can and should take to prepare your company to open safe legally.

Human Resources:  The world of HR changed rapidly during the pandemic.  The federal and state governments passed new laws regarding unemployment, medical leave under a variety of economic packages which affected employees’ rights and created legal exposure for employers.  How you bring back employees could impact your obligations under PPE loans, which is no longer merely a question of your staffing needs as the volume of your business returns.

Slow Opening versus Fast Opening:  As you can see from a simple review of the various news sources available, we could have a long slow slog to “turn the economy back on” or the economy could jump into fifth gear due to pent up demand.  Some predict a fall or winter resurgence while others believe we have flattened the curve and are on the road to recovery.  My own personal opinions are not important, but what is important is that business owners “prepare for anything.”  How would you deal with a brief fall or early winter shutdown?   

Investors:  Many small businesses are concerned with opening and how to financially reopen their business given their current debt and equity situation.  Many worry about having sufficient cash or product on hand to open.  Consider a small short-term loan from a private investor.  Private investors often have cash and funds to lend, at slightly higher rates, and can close on simple loans through pre-drafted loan agreements.   This is an excellent alternative to applying to the SBA or to a bricks and mortar bank which would require a longer and more extensive, and more expensive underwriting and approval process.   

Safety Measures: If you have the financial ability, consult with a building contractor in an attempt to put cost-effective safety measures in place.  Local contractors are out of work and have time to meet with you, walk your property (if allowed in your locality) and look for creative ways to open healthy.  Right now we do not have a broad based law which immunizes businesses from claims based upon COVID-19 infection, and this is an uncertain time legally speaking.  You need to do all you can, within reason, to create a healthy and safe environment.  Document your efforts so that you can compare notes with others.  Speak to your trade associations, the local business committee members, and others for guidance on how to accomplish these goals.  Do a lot of reading, print out articles, and listen and see what others are doing, even if they are in a different industry or business, as their ideas may be creative and adaptive to your business.  

Social Media:  Now more than ever the community wishes to support you and your small or medium sized business.  The plight of business owners, outside of the big box stores allowed to stay open, has been widely documented.  This is an opportunity for you to utilize social media and time away from your business to recreate your image, revisit the menu of services or products you provide, and make strategic decisions.

Get Healthy:  While faced with downtime and an extended period outside of your physical space of your business, use the time wisely to get healthy.  Small business owners suffer from a high level of stress, and are particularly prone to high blood pressure, excessive weight, and drug and alcohol abuse due to the high demands and stress levels associated with your line of work.  Avoid the “excuse” of over-drinking because everyone is doing it during the pandemic.  Take your phone calls and meetings on the road.  Walk with your partners or walk while you talk to your business associates 30-45 minutes a day or more.  Eat healthy, plenty of vitamins and water, grab some extra sleep you have been deprived of for years.  As dentists and physicians reopen, get the checkups you have long ignored. These could help you avoid a more serious illness or medical problem down the road, which would stress your health coverage.  A healthy and energized you is the best weapon against the dangers of reopening your business. 

Get Your Business Healthy Too:  Sit down and write out a list of what you used to refer to as “the problems with my business.”  Speak to your friends in the community, your lender, your employees and your business partners.  Have frank discussions about how you can do better, what you are doing right that you should not change, and be armed with information when you return to the battle of the everyday rigor associated with your daily grind.  Now is the time when the pandemic, economic and other factors probably create room for you to make changes to fix problems, accentuate strengths and come out on the other end with a stronger and smarter business.             

Our firm is here to provide you with guidance through these difficult times.  We have experienced lawyers whom can answer your employment questions, help you deal with your concerns of liability, and look at your human resources manuals and policies.  We can advise you on questions about private or market based loans, review or prepare your loan agreements, and handle shareholder questions pertaining to investors in your business.  If you have workers’ compensation or unemployment questions, we are here to answer them.  Finally, if you thought about your business succession or family succession plan recently, our estate and business lawyers can help you review your current documents, and advise you on how you can properly plan to move forward, while avoiding tax and legal complications.

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Vincent T. Cieslik, Esq.

About the Author

About the Author:

Vincent T. Cieslik, Esq. is Co-Chair of the firm’s Business Litigation Group and a Shareholder in the firm’s Commercial Litigation and Health Care Groups. He focuses his practice in the representation of individuals, small businesses, not-for-profits and and large corporations in complicated and often high-risk litigation. In his personal time, Vince supports the March of Dimes of South Jersey, serves as the Walk Chairman for the March of Dimes Walk for Babies and 5K Run for Babies, and serves as a member of a local school board.

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